Who is a sabermetrician?
"... I shouldn’t be considered a sabermetrician. I have never claimed to be a member of this community. What I do is apply my knowledge from my economics training and experience with analyzing data to issues in baseball."
I find this kind of confusing – If JC analyzes issues in baseball, statistically, then *of course* he's a sabermetrician. Perhaps there's a confusion in regards to the definition – does sabermetrician mean "one who does sabermetrics," or "one who is expert in the field of sabermetrics"? I suppose JC could be the one but not the other – if I do some analysis using economic reasoning, I'm doing economics, but that doesn't mean I'm an economist.
In any case, where all this came from is a post by Rob Neyer, pointing out that JC and Tom Tango are in strong disagreement on the Raul Ibanez signing. JC has Ibanez being worth $46 million over three years, while Tango has him worth only about $10 million. That is, to say the least, a substantial difference.
Rob uses this example to show how there are, and always will be, major sources of disagreement in the sabermetric community. I'm not completely with Rob on this one – I think conflicts of this magnitude are fairly rare. My take is that JC has a methodology for valuing players that most other sabermetricians think is incorrect (I, myself, disagreed with him here). As Mitchel Lichtman says in one of the comments,
"There are plenty of experts with respect to projections, and I don't think - in fact I know - that any of them will project his value at anything close to 14mm per year."
If that's the case, that JC's opinion is an outlier, then it might not be that there's long-term disagreement, but simply that somebody – perhaps JC, perhaps everyone else -- is just plain wrong. And, in legitimate science, when someone is wrong, it usually gets corrected pretty quick.
JC's post also goes on to argue that academic research in sabermetrics is more reliable than informal online discussions:
"... much what passes for research within [the sabermetric] community is not sufficiently rigorous to reach the conclusions often claimed. There are many academic researchers from a variety of fields who have significantly advanced the understanding of baseball that receive scant mention in the sabermetric community. For example, Michael Schell’s Baseball’s All-Time Best Sluggers is the most thorough treatise on hitting ever written; yet, few individuals mention his work or attempt to replicate his methods. You rarely see economists Gerald Scully or Tony Krautmann mentioned when attempting to value players, despite the fact that their methods were published in reputable peer-reviewed economics journals, where established experts vetted their work. Academics are not always right, but I believe the checks ensure they are more likely to reach correct conclusions than informal online discussions."
Not to beat a dead horse, but, as I have written before, I'm not very impressed with the output of the academic community, when it comes to sabermetrics. I think the peer review to which JC refers is often not capable of spotting flawed analysis. For my own part, I would certainly prefer to have a paper of my own vetted by Tango or MGL than by an anonymous academic economist who is unlikely to have a strong grounding in sabermetrics. I think experienced amateur sabermetricians are much more likely to find legitimate flaws in my work than professional economists.
However, I haven't seen the academic examples JC mentions. It's certainly possible that Schell, Scully and Krautmann have done work that we non-academics are ignoring. Are any readers familiar with Schell's book, or the Scully and Krautmann valuation methods? If someone can point me to the relevant journal articles, I'll post a review.
UPDATE: Dave Berri comments on his blog.